I noticed a little spider sitting on an enormous web last week and wondered about it's identity. It had quite a crab-like appearance. Thanks to a couple of helpful readers I've since found out it's a Jewel Spider ... Austracantha minax.
The common name, Jewel Spider, appears to be related to the look of the smooth enamelled appearance of its abdominal surface.
It's also referred to as the Christmas Spider, because according to some of the information I've found online, they are usually found around Christmastime in our tropical Aussie gardens, which is our Summer. Well that's not the case in this particular situation. This spider is sitting out in the courtyard in early Winter.
It's a tiny little thing, about the size of my little fingernail. The males apparently grow up to 4 mm, while females will reach 8 mm. So mine must be a female.
This Jewel Spider has remarkable mottled white patterns on a black background on its back, and has six large projecting spines around its abdomen. This is the reason for another of its common names ... the Spiny Spider.
Apparently Jewel Spiders build a vertical orb web about one to two metres above the ground ... which is exactly right in the case of the Jewel Spider out in my courtyard.
The support silk lines are apparently deliberately made visible, while the orb web remains invisible. The anchor lines have many fluffy white balls on the silk which means large animals, like we humans, can actually see these silk support lines and avoid walking into the web and destroying it.
The female spiders sit all day and night on their webs. Unlike most Orb Spiders that destroy their web after a day and move on elsewhere to build a new one.
The male Jewel Spiders apparently hang around nearby on a branch. I've looked for one, but haven't been able to find it yet.
These spiders eat flying insects which get trapped on the silk.
I'm adding a little video clip I managed to take with my old ageing camera. It's not the best quality, but you can clearly see the Jewel Spider wrapping up its lunch.
Here's another little clip showing the spider repairing its web after the insect got caught in the silk lines.